Graduations continue – this time at Riley

Patient Stories |


hem-onc graduation

The hem-onc unit celebrates high school grads who’ve been in their care. Erik Fields is among several who will be honored Friday night.

By Maureen Gilmer, Riley Children’s Health senior writer,

Erik Fields recently received his high school diploma from the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics and Humanities in Muncie, Indiana, but on Friday night, he will cross another stage, this time to receive a diploma from the hematology-oncology team at Riley Children’s Health.

Riley’s annual graduation ceremony for patients who have undergone lengthy cancer treatments is at 7 p.m. Friday in the auditorium at the Riley Outpatient Center.

It is especially meaningful for students who may have missed big chunks of their high school career while hospitalized.

hem-onc graduation

Erik, 18, was diagnosed shortly after his 16th birthday in March 2022 with Stage 4 DLBCL (diffuse large B cell lymphoma).

Considering that the teen and his family initially thought he had appendicitis, the cancer diagnosis when he arrived at Riley was difficult to grasp, but he began treatment immediately and finished his regimen in September 2022.

By then, the former Franklin Central High School student had already begun his studies online at Indiana Academy – mixing chemo with AP physics – but by the following spring, he moved to Muncie to attend school in person.

“Academics have always been extremely important to him,” said his mom, Raeann, though the move was hard on the whole family, which includes dad Jeremy and two older siblings.

Erik suffered multiple complications during and after treatment, bouncing from the hematology-oncology unit to the PICU at Riley, but he is in remission and plans to attend Indiana University Indianapolis this fall to study chemistry.

While the initial cancer diagnosis “crushed him,” his mom said, he eventually bonded with several nurses and took pains to show off his style when he needed to walk around the unit.

“Erik is really into sneakers, especially Jordans. Living in the hospital for so long, he would ask for a couple pairs of his Jordans to be there so he would have them for PT,” she said. “He would coordinate his hat and shoes, along with his hospital gown.”

The teen will join a half-dozen other Riley oncology grads in Friday’s ceremony, which will include a speech by former patient and current Butler University student Olivia Stoy.